Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

Jun 06th
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Home Feature Stories Great Love After Asia Tsunami More Than a Doctor - Yasawathee

More Than a Doctor - Yasawathee

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More Than a Doctor
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Ensconced on a chair in the living room, Yasawathee, eight months pregnant, looked totally drained of spirit. When her mother-in-law came through to join her, she too looked equally sorrowful and despondent. When the tsunami came, Yasawathee's husband and father-in-law were both out selling goods at the weekend market as usual. They did not manage to escape in time. Now there were two widows within the family. But for the mother-in-law, who had lost both her husband and her son, the grief was even more unbearable.

Dr. Li Yi-gung, director of the emergency room at Dalin Tzu Chi General Hospital, and nurse Chen Miao-wen decided to give Yasawathee a simple prenatal examination after learning that she had never had one in all of the eight months she had been pregnant. "This is the baby's head, do you know that?" Not seeing a trace of joy or anticipation on Yasawathee's face, even though this would be her first child, they tried to remind her that even though she had lost her husband, she would soon have her newborn, who would need her care and love very much.

"Your husband and father-in-law must be hoping that you will have a smooth delivery, so you must take good care of yourself, okay?" Volunteer Lin Tsui-lian consoled Yasawathee with a hug. "If you cry, your baby inside your tummy will cry, too. But if you're happy, your baby will be happy with you. We trust you will be a very good mother."

The knot between Yasawathee's brows began to loosen, and sudden tears streamed from her eyes as her bottled-up emotions finally found a release. A rare smile appeared on her face as she thanked the volunteers for their encouragement.

"I know your family members love you very much, and we love you, too. You're not alone." Before they left, the volunteers gave Yasawathee some milk powder and nutritional biscuits, plus they also reassured her that Tzu Chi would be making relief distributions in the area continually, so she need not worry about not having enough food after her baby was born.

Dr. Li Yi-gung, who has seen more death and tears in his emergency room than the average person has in a lifetime, is often dubbed the "ER Steel Man." But moments after leaving Yasawathee's house, the Steel Man broke into tears.

Dr. Li said that Yasawathee's plight reminded her of her own mother. Dr. Li was only six years old when her father passed away. "I know how hard life will be for this single mother and her child, because I went through it myself when I was young."

Her similar fate made her more sensitive than most people to the feelings and sufferings of those in similar circumstances. Although coming from a distant land and a different culture, Dr. Li understood more than anyone what the care of Tzu Chi volunteers means to a young widow at a tough time like this.

During brief breaks from tending to patients, Dr. Li Yi-gong visited a Buddhist temple across from the Tzu Chi medical station. Inside the temple, he found murals depicting the life story of the Buddha from birth to nirvana. He photographed the two sections depicting the Buddha tending to the sick and the Buddha attaining enlightenment under a bodhi tree.

"Before we set out from Taiwan, Master Cheng Yen reminded all of us to help propagate the dharma [the Buddha's teachings]. Today, I finally understood what it meant to propagate the dharma--we can do it by letting our innate humanitarian spirit spring forth completely in times of tragedy like this, because everyone has the capacity and wisdom to help others and show love for one another."

Dr. Li explained, "The Buddha attained enlightenment under a bodhi tree, so where should doctors attain enlightenment?" He answered firmly, "In the midst of disasters!"

When Taiwan suffered a devastating earthquake on September 21, 1999, Dr. Li joined an emergency medical team to help quake victims. Ever since then, he has continuously cared about the post-quake recovery effort in central Taiwan, hoping those he had helped will emerge from their suffering into a better tomorrow.

And although Hambantota is thousands of miles from Taiwan, Dr. Li clings to the same hope for those he helped there, wishing that one day when he returns to that distant land again, he will see those friends afar smiling again in better days.

By Yeh Wen-ying
Translated by John Ueng
Photographs by Lin Yen-huang


" A refined disposition is naturally expressed in the way a person walks, lives, sits, and sleeps. "
Jing-Si Aphorism

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